Many years ago-- twelve years, actually-- I auditioned for a college a cappella group. I walked into the rehearsal room-- the room in which I'd later spend hundreds and hundreds of hours, pretending I could read music better than I could, hearing harmonies lock in, struggling to be a better musician and a better friend to these women who would change my life-- feeling very confident, like I was destined to win this thing, to be in this group, to slaughter this audition before me. I could call my attitude aggressive, or arrogant, or just confident, but however you want to put it-- I wasn't good enough. I failed. I didn't make it. And I knew it, too; had high enough standards and enough musical taste to know I didn't deserve to make it. So a couple of days later I auditioned for something else: a tiny AIDS Benefit club that nobody really cared about, which did musical reviews that each raised about $300 for a local AIDS coalition. The club had just been dumped, both artistically and administratively, on one poor, nice little sophomore guy. The auditions for this one were in a run down little chapel on the outskirts of campus. This club had no flash and really, nothing but the nobility of its "benefit" status to recommend it.
You know what happens now. I did the benefit show; I'm marrying the nice sophomore guy. I also went back to the a cappella group six months later and did a better job and made it in. I did both. My life was all and, and, and. The initial rejection made me go out and get some other yes's, so that I could bounce up to and's.
It was too much. I took too many classes, I joined too many clubs. I had too many friends and spent too much money going out to too many restaurants ordering too many appetizers to split. I read too many books for too many hours and had to get up early to write too many papers with too many citations. Then I graduated and agreed to go to China too quickly, where there were too many people, and I traveled to too many cities, which I could only get to by transferring on too many buses. I went to New York, too loud, too hot, too expensive, too expansive, too absurd. I quit my first job there because it was too corporate and I worked as a dogwalker because that was too ridiculous of an opportunity to say no to; I specialized in dogs that were too aggressive or too big. I had to walk them even when it was too cold, too hot, too rainy, or too snowy, and if I was too tired from staying up way, way too late the night before.
It became something of a joke. Julia was the person you could get to do anything. She'd say yes to it all. I was open to suggestions. I was a braggart about doing new things, stupid things, real things, things I hadn't even imagined before. I've only actually applied for a job once in my life, and it was for being a restaurant hostess. Everything else was just me agreeing to do something for someone.
And then I found improv (because Greg asked me to go with him one day, and of course I agreed), and the whole philosophy just exploded. Yes, yes, yes. And, and, and. By the rules of improv, everyone had to do what I'd been trying to do all along: be bold, be impermanent. Find joy in piling on.
My class became my team became my company, and now we're winning competitions. Tonight we have a show in New York at the Upright Citizens Brigade. It could be our last, our only. It's a competition; we could get knocked out tonight, or, should we keep winning, we could perform every Thursday in New York for months.
I'm writing this post because I think you should come. You have a hundred reasons not to. It's late at night, it's far away, and the show is sold out. But you know what? Since it's late you have no conflicts, and there's a standby line that guarantees you entry. And this show will never happen again. There is no other chance.
All this preachy stuff just for a little show? Yes. Because it's the little shows, and the long nights, that make a life. I'm tired and I'm busy and I'm stupid sometimes, but the only real "too" in my life is that the hours are too short. I don't make lists of pros and cons. I make lists of pros, and then I pick the best pros.
You should go to this show because you can drink a cheap beer while you watch. You should go because the seats are delightfully crappy and you might end up sitting on the floor, crotch-level with the actors. It'll make you feel young. You should go because we have no idea what the show will be about; you should go because it'll cost you five dollars. You should go because the drive down from Connecticut will be only a couple of hours, and the traffic will be great because it's so late, and tomorrow's Friday and it's a three-day weekend. You should go because it's too far away, too late, and you'll be too tired tomorrow-- which is the basis for any adventure.
And, if you're from Hartford or Connecticut at large, you should go because there once was a band of seven stupid idiots who did something badly and then got better. And better. And lost other Cage Matches with horrible scenes about porcupines, and came back. And those people have multiplied, and they're pretty good now, and they beat a bunch of New York teams in the Indie Cage Match, proving that Sea Tea Improv is just as good as a bunch of people who moved to NYC to make careers as actors. Maybe on another day one of those teams would have beaten us; but there was no other day. There is only the thousand little yes-and's that got us to that moment. And Connecticut is killing it right now with our yes's. If you're from Hartford, you should be proud of that, and you should brag about it as if it were a personal achievement, because Hartford made Sea Tea possible.
But Julia, you're saying, I live in Seattle and the show is tonight and I don't even know you personally. Ok, that's a good reason. But then, instead, go out and do something else. Find a better pro. The next thing that someone asks you to do-- hear in your head all the little no's you're saying to yourself. Recognize them so that you can realize how dumb they are and then ignore them. Go support someone who is doing something good for your community, even if it makes you tired. Find a way to make every no a yes. You can't plan your life. You're improvising. That's what improvising is: going into something cocky and not good enough, getting rejected, and then turning around and making it good. You thought you were a singer, and maybe you're not right now. Go be in an AIDS Benefit. Are you meant to be a singer? No. You're not "meant to be" anything. You're meant to go on with whatever you've got. Go find something else and marry it. Go all the way.
In every no, a yes. Is that corny? Is that arrogant? Is that completely unoriginal? Yes. And it's true.
And now I need to go, because someone has just asked me to do something a little bit nuts. So I must leave you. Go.
Show info here.